If you love Italian card games, you may have heard of Buraco, but have you ever wondered how to play? Well, that’s where I come in.
Throughout this guide, I’ll be giving you all the ins and outs of the games and telling you all you need to know before you start playing Buraco. I’ll also include what you’ll need to play, how to get started, and discuss the point-scoring system, melds, and combinations.
Buraco aims to form melds throughout each round which will consist of seven or more cards. You might recognize this part as compared with the popular card game Canasta.
To play Buraco, you’ll need two standard decks of 52 cards (including the jokers). You can pick these up at most toy stores or, if you prefer convenience, take a look on Amazon. I love these Bicycle Tragic Royalty Playing Cards. I love the design, and they make a great conversation piece at the table.
The game is best suited to four players, split into teams of two (pairs). It’s recommended for players of all ages, so the perfect game to introduce at your next family gathering or to teach to the kiddie winks.
Let’s get started, shall we?
To Begin The Game
To start with, you’ll need to pick one person to be the dealer. You can find your way of doing this, but the accurate method for Burcas is for everyone to pick a card from the deck, and the person with the lowest card is the dealer. Whoever picks the highest card sits to the left of the dealer. The game moves in an anti-clockwise motion.
Before you begin, it’s best to familiarize yourself with the card values, which are as follows:
- Joker – 30 points
- Two – 20 points
- Ace – 15 points
- 8, 9 10, Jack, Queen & King – 10 points
- 3 to 7 – 5 points
Once you’ve got your dealer, they need to shuffle and combine the decks before passing them to the player on their right to cut. This player will then remove one-third of the deck (22 cards), leaving 45 in the deck. The dealer then takes the bigger deck cut and deals them to all the players, each having 11 cards.
Now, the player who cut the cards should form two piles out of the cards they took and create two even piles, known as pozzetti. These are now dealt, one card at a time, into two stacks of 11. The piles should then be placed one on top of the other to form a cross and put in the corner of the table. Any remaining cards are placed in the center of the table.
Once all the dealings have been done, you’ll see one card left over from the deck the dealer was handing out. This card is now placed in the middle of the table.
So, to clarify, what you should have now is the following:
- Four players, including the dealer, should have 11 cards.
- Pozzetti – the criss-cross of 22 cards, in the corner of the table.
- The leftover cards in the middle should consist of 41 cards.
- One single card facing up next to the leftover cards.
Got that? Great!
Melding & Combinations
So if you remember earlier, I mentioned that the game aims to form melds or combinations. These melds should contain a minimum of 3 cards, and you can add cards to your teammates’ melds but not your opponents.
There are two different kinds of melds, which are as follows:
- A Sequence – This must be three more cards in sequential order of the same suit. You can use a single wild card, and aces can be used as a high or a low, but not both.
- A Set – A set can only contain one wild card and must not include more than nine cards.
You can create a Buraco, a meld containing more than seven cards, to earn bonus points.
How To Play?
The player to the dealer’s left moves first with their turn, drawing a card from the center pile or taking the whole face-up pile. Next, you need to try and form a meld, and lastly, discard one card from your hand to the discard pile. This ends the turn, and the game moves to the next person.
If you play all of the cards in your hand before the other players, you get to take the first pozzetti, which will now become your new hand.
To Finish The Game
There are three possible ways that the game can be brought to an end:
- Chiusura – Chiusura means closing the game, which happens when a player goes out. This usually occurs when a team has taken a pozzetto, melded a buraco, or in the case that someone melds all but one single card from their hand.
- The Draw Pile Has Two Cards – If a player takes a card from the discard, which means only two remain, no further melds can be played, and the game comes to a halt.
- Stalemate – Should the discard pile only have one card remaining? All players want to take it and replace it with a card from their hand; this is called a stalemate, as it would be players simply swapping unwanted cards, which is fruitless. This ends the game.
Once the game is over, it’s time to determine the winner by calculating the points scored. But there are a few things you should keep in mind before tallying the final score, such as:
- If the game ended because there were only two cards in the discard pile, because of a stalemate, or because no players have gone out, then neither team wins bonus points.
- If the cards left in your hand are worth more than previously melded cards, you’ll score negative points.
- The overall winner is the first team to score over 2000 points.
The points are scored as follows:
- Melds – Face value
- Cards in Hand – Face value
- Going Out – 100 points
- Not Taking Your Pozzetto – 100 points
- Clean Buraco (No wildcards) – 100 points
- Dirty Buraco (With Wildcard) – 200 points
Although playing Buraco with precisely four players is what’s recommended, there are also some variations ) that can be played with three or two players. You can also play with six players, but you will need a third deck of cards.
You can also add in some additional rules if you want to make the game more challenging, such as:
- Use the aces as only high or low instead of both.
- Leave the jokers out, or use them as wildcards which means they can be played in place of any other card.
- Only end the game on either a clean or a dirty run.
So, that’s how you play the Buraco card game. While reading this, you may have noticed many similarities to the popular card game rummy, and you’d be right. The two are, in fact, quite alike. If you want to learn how to play another variation of rummy, you should check out my guide on playing Liverpool Rummy, with many advanced tips and strategies.